Devoto expects Bath test
By Mark Stevens
Ollie Devoto has warned his Exeter Chiefs to prepare for battle ahead of tonight’s Gallagher Premiership clash with Bath at the Recreation Ground (7:45pm).
The high-flying Chiefs arrive in the Roman City not only looking to maintain their lofty position with English rugby’s top flight, but at the same time give themselves the perfect send-off before they head into their latest European adventure in a week’s time.
Five wins from five starts represents a best-ever start for the Chiefs in the Premiership, but that record will be on the line against local rivals Bath, who having rested 13 players in last week’s loss at table-topping Saracens, welcome back a glut of their frontline stars for tonight’s Round Six encounter.
England international Devoto knows better than most the threat of the home side, having spent four years with Bath before making the switch to the Chiefs in 2016.
“Friday is a big test for us,” said Devoto. “Bath are a quality side and we have to be wary of them. They’ve gone individual brilliance within their ranks, a good set-piece and, like a lot of teams, they pride themselves on having a good home record.
“Playing at the Rec, especially on a Friday night, it’s a special place to play. Having the ground right in the middle of the city, you see everyone congregate beforehand, and it always has a great atmosphere there.”
The Chiefs, however, are in fine fettle and in welcoming back a number of their own star names for this evening’s clash, Devoto says the Devon club are looking to build on what has been a solid start to the campaign.
“It’s been a good start,” added the 25-year-old back. “Personally, it’s great for me to just be back and playing. Last season - what with the injuries I had - it was tough watching the lads play every week.As a rugby player you want to be out there every week, but at the same time you have to realise that injuries are very much part and parcel of the game.
“For sure it was frustrating, but now I’m back out there and I’m just looking to make the most of every opportunity that I get.”
Although victorious in every Premiership game this season, the Chiefs have been critical of some of their on-field displays and Devoto believes a few tweaks to the game plan this past week will help give them the ammunition they need to not only see off Bath, but also Munster and Castres in the next few weeks.
“As a club we’re always pretty hard on ourselves,” he said. “The coaches are driving the standards up all the time, but as a squad we have to equally drive those same standards. If we’re honest, that’s not necessarily been the case.We’ve been winning, but we’ve probably left a few points and a few tries out on the pitch.
“We know there is still a lot more to come from us moving forward and hopefully we will see the start of that on Friday night.These next three games are huge for the club and our aim is to kick all of that off with a big performance that we can then take into Europe.”